Challenges in a Product Testing Environment

[article]
Management and People Perspectives
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tangible and intangible. For example we have noticed major improvements in quality of products delivered to the marketplace as evidenced by feedback from customers received on the product as well as post-release defect densities for products engineered and released by us. Novell Bangalore's credibility as an engineering organization with our parent organization in the US has seen a very steady and significant raise over the years. The proof of this is the increasing levels of responsibility that has been bestowed on us from inception. From just delivering some non-critical components to Novell's products when we began in 1995 to complete engineering ownership for several products and major components for other products today, we have come a long way and are today viewed as an extremely critical software engineering center in Novell.

While the above results are gratifying, we felt the true test for our management initiatives would be to check what people perceive about the organization and the roles. We did this through a survey of about 35 odd test engineers in the company. The survey questions focussed mainly on perceptions of test engineers and test engineering roles. The questions elicited one of 5 choices as follows (1) Strongly Disagree (2) Disagree (3) Neither Agree nor Disagree (4) Agree (5) Strongly Agree. Please see the Appendix for a complete description of the questions and % responses for each option for each question. Our analysis of the responses to these questions revealed the following interesting observations:

  • Test engineers, in general, are able to identify themselves with their roles and believe strongly that test engineering is very critical to ensure quality of products delivered
  • Doing product testing greatly enhances one's knowledge about the product
  • Test engineering is seen as at least as critical as development engineering
  • There is good communication within the test teams as well as with other teams responsible for the product
  • Test engineering provides good value addition to the careers of test engineers
  • Test engineers have the freedom to exercise their creativity in their jobs

While these are quite positive, there were important areas that need attention as well.

  • Test engineers are not actively involved right through the product life cycle as they should be
  • Training provided to test engineers is not adequate
  • The quality of product that enters testing is an area of concern for many test engineers implying that we need to tighten up the engineering and review processes prior to testing.

6. Moving forwards
Moving forward, we as an organization have decided that we need to focus on the following areas–basically those where the survey has shown us to be needing improvement.

  1. Training test engineers regularly and adequately in Testing methodologies, new and emerging testing technologies as well as on the domain areas of relevance to them.
  2. Involving test engineers pro-actively at all stages of product development.
  3. Improving the recognition given to test engineers
  4. Tightening up software engineering processes before testing to ensure we have better quality products entering testing–this also will mean better enforcement of entry and exit criteria across various phases in the life cycle
  5. Improving the communication process across the various engineering teams (test engineering teams and other engineering teams) in order to create better understanding and working relationships

In addition we have felt the need to extend the type of survey we have done with test engineers to some thing we do across the whole organization so we get a comprehensive perspective of the entire function and its impact on the organization.

Acknowledgements
We would like to thank all the persons who took time to respond to the survey and express their

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